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Tuesday, January 27, 1998 Published at 19:14 GMT

Al Gore: Waiting in the wings

Americans are examining what might be the new first family

He's been called everything from the "wooden man" to the "Mr Clean" of American politics. Al Gore could be president of the United States sooner than even he expected, writes Jane Black.

[ image: 'Mr Clean' of American politics]
'Mr Clean' of American politics
As the sex scandal surrounding President Clinton and Monica Lewinsky rages, political pundits and the American public are beginning to consider what life would be like if Mr Gore were to take over the reins of government.

Good old Gore

American columnist and political pundit Michael Kinsley once wrote that Al Gore is an old person's idea of what a young person should be.

The BBC's Jeremy Harris profiles the Vice-President
But if Al Gore lacks style and charisma, he has enjoyed a reputation as a solid, upstanding public servant - a reputation that the travails of his boss have served to highlight.

Mr Gore graduated from Harvard University, served in Vietnam and later worked as an investigative journalist in his native state of Tennessee. In 1976, he was elected to the House of Representatives before being elected to the senate in 1984.

[ image: Could Al Gore be president before 2000?]
Could Al Gore be president before 2000?
He made his mark in 1992 with a book, which put a new spin on environmental issues in the post-Cold War era. In "The Earth in Balance", Mr Gore argued that only a radical rethinking of society's relationship with nature could save the earth for future generations.

Primed for leadership

His father - Al Gore Sr - was an influential senator and Mr Gore spent much of his childhood mixing with the Washington elite. Mr Clinton also has given Al Gore unprecedented access, training and support for his own run for the presidency in 2000.

"I rely on him and have entrusted matters to him and have involved him in the day-to-day operations of virtually everything that I do to an extent that actually has no parallel in American history," Mr Clinton said.

Nobody's perfect

[ image:  ]
But given the current turmoil at the White House, that endorsement may be one Al Gore secretly prefers to do without. Until now, Mr Gore has successfully maintained his "golden boy" image, despite run-ins of his own with the American ethics police.

Following the 1996 election, he was accused of illegally making fundraising calls from inside the White House and attending a questionable fundraising event at a Buddhist temple. The environmental community - once his most reliable base - also recently denounced him for abandoning his principles at the Kyoto climate conference.

Nevertheless, what is foremost in many people's minds in the context of the latest Clinton scandal is Mr Gore's reputation as a family man.

"In the personal realm, there is not a hint of a problem for Al Gore," said National Public Radio White House correspondent Mara Liasson. "There are rumours about many politicians in Washington, but never, ever has there been a rumour that Al Gore had a problem with infidelity."

Democrat or Republican, right now, that may be all the American people really want.

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